This is a guest post by Anthony Sargent, the managing director of modern estate agents in East Dulwich, Fish Need Water. Working with landlords, Anthony aims to make the property finding process easy and stress free for all renters in London.
In 2014, buying or renting property in London was considered one of the most stressful parts of our lifestyle — and it’s no surprise why.
With increasing property prices over the past two years, that stress hasn’t eased much. Finding somewhere to live in an ideal location and within your price range can be rare, and when you do find it, you’ve got to snap it up quickly, because you know it won’t be around for long.
While worrying about finding the right property and getting it as soon as possible, it’s often difficult to know what exactly you’re looking for, as well as the vital questions you need to ask. Find out how to prepare for finding property, and those crucial queries to put to letting agents or landlords in London.
Things to Consider While Looking for a Property in London
Even if you need to find a property as soon as possible, don’t settle for the first or cheapest option you find. Take some time to think about these important factors. Allowing yourself some time to think, rather than just jumping into searching, will allow you to make a clearer decision, calming the initial stress that comes with property hunting.
If you already have an area in mind for where you want to move to, this is a good start. It means you may need to wait a little longer to find a property in your desired location, but allows you to do some research on the location beforehand.
If you’re not sure where you want to live, this leaves some scope for researching and seeing where is more affordable, while still convenient for work and your daily routine. Your research can really help you. For example, if you really want to live in Brixton but simply can’t afford it, you could talk to estate agents in Camberwell, which is nearby, but may be more within your budget.
Looking around sporadically at all areas of London will leave you confused and stressed. Picking a general area will help you focus and give you a better idea of a price range.
Know What You Want
Are you desperate for a garden, or the new night tube on weekends? Or do you just want somewhere with a bed and some storage space while you live your life in London? Make a list of your essentials and go from there when looking at property. Don’t settle without your essentials, as you might end up not being happy with your decision later down the line.
Given the expensive nature of renting in London, flat shares are common. You can find some good deals on rooms, and if you’re moving in with some friends, this is an ideal option. You may see some rooms advertised on Gumtree or other various online websites. However, always speak to a letting agent or verified landlord. Always meet them in person and see the property before agreeing to anything. You want to know where and to whom your money is going.
Questions to Ask the Letting Agent or Landlord
Once you’ve found a property you’re interested in, book an appointment to view it as soon as possible. When you look around, see if it has all of your essentials. Before you think you’ve found your perfect property, be sure to ask these questions to the letting agent or landlord.
How Much do I Pay in Upfront Costs?
The rent may be a good price, but remember that when you first sign a tenancy agreement, the actual down payment is much more. The most common upfront fees are one to two months’ rent (any more is questionable) and a deposit, which is usually six weeks’ rent.
You may also be charged with a holding fee, to show your commitment to the property. If you drop out of completing signing the contract, you will lose this money (you will receive the money if the landlord pulls out).
Letting agent fees are common as well; ask for how much this is and a breakdown of what the money is for (these fees should be listed on the advert and their website). The money is commonly used for reference checks, credit checks and drawing up the contracts.
Will My Deposit be Put in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme?
If you’re in a shorthold tenancy agreement, your landlord must legally put your deposit in a Tenancy Deposit Scheme, ensuring your money is safe. If there is a dispute at the end of your tenancy with the landlord, your money will be kept safe until this is resolved.
Why Did the Previous Tenant Move Out?
Usually, this answer is very straightforward, but it’s always good to ask. Tenants may have moved out due to bad neighbours or dampness and bad insulation in the winter. Most good agents will be upfront and honest about it.
What Furniture Comes With the Tenancy Agreement?
This is important! Find out what furniture comes with the property, and what belongs to the current tenants. Don’t turn up expecting a microwave, TV or sofa, because it might not belong to the property. Ask when looking around what is included. White goods, large kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures will usually be included.
Are the Bills Included?
If any of the bills are included, this may be the reason for the rent being slightly higher. If they aren’t included, ask approximately how much each bill is per month. Remember it’s not just gas, electric and water bills. Council Tax in London varies from borough to borough and is dependent on property size. Find out if the internet is already installed and check the broadband speed and mobile signal; installation incur an extra fee, as well as monthly payments.
All Questions Answered and Happy With the Property?
If you’ve looked at the property and are happy with what’s included, it’s time to seal the deal! Always read over the tenancy agreement before signing; if there is something you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask about it.
In order to sign the tenancy agreement swiftly, you can get prepared in advance with the documents you will need. References from previous landlords, current employer, and guarantors will be required.
Finding somewhere to live in London can be stressful, but if you know what you’re looking for and your rights as a tenant, that stress can easily be avoided.